by Jim Pickett

One of my most inspiring days at the IAS 2009 conference – or any conference in my life for that matter – was my visit to two HIV/AIDS programs in the Cape Town area. Courtesy of Bristol Myers Squibb (who provides funding to these projects) a horde of European journalists and a couple of lone Americans got on a bus and visited Grandmothers Against Poverty and AIDS (GAPA) in Khayelitsha – a huge township (around a million people) just outside Cape Town. GAPA provides support to “grannies” who have lost their children to AIDS and are in the position of having to raise their grandchildren and manage their grief.

We then went to Paarl (wine country) and visited the Butterfly House – a community of “love in action” that provides care for people impacted by HIV, including home-based care and programming for young people, many of whom have lost parents to HIV.

We were treated to lunch at GAPA, and in both locations dance performances and lots and lots of singing.

The pictures speak for themselves. But my favorite quote of the day was when the director of GAPA, Ms Mandisa Mafuya, said, “In Africa, we sing. We sing when we are happy, and when we are sad. We sing when we are angry. We sing when we are confused. We just sing.”

And they did.